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The Standards Commission is an independent body whose purpose is to encourage high ethical standards in public life through the promotion and enforcement of Codes of Conduct for councillors and those appointed to the boards of devolved public bodies.

Further Analysis of Responses to Survey of Members of Devolved Public Bodies

14th February 2019

The Standards Commission has further analysed the nearly 300 responses it received to the survey it issued to members of devolved public bodies, including national, regional, NHS boards, Health & Social Care IJBs, further education colleges and regional transport partnerships. The Standards Commission has outlined its findings in a report that can be found here.

While there are numerically more members of devolved public bodies than councillors covered by the Codes of Conduct, 98% of formal complaints referred under the ethical standards framework in the past reporting year, concern local authority councillors. None of the 11 public Hearings held by the Standards Commission during the year concerned a public body member. To establish the reason for the low numbers of complaints from members of devolved public bodies, the Commission surveyed Chairs and Members to discover whether the lack of complaints was the result of a high level of adherence to the Codes of Conduct or whether instances of poor conduct were simply going unreported.  The Standards Commission found that the problem of "disrespectful conduct" (which includes bullying, harassment or disrespectful language), appears to be more widespread in local health boards and Health and Social Care Integration Joint Boards (IJBs) than in other types of public bodies, with nearly a quarter of members of local health boards and IJBs reporting having experienced disrespectful behaviour (23% in IJBs and 24% in health boards). It further found that 16% of board members said they had come across "disrespectful conduct" by a fellow board member. It is noted, however, that four in ten (43%) of respondees indicated that they would be "very" or "somewhat" reluctant to make a complaint about a fellow board member with reasons for their reluctance including a fear of repercussions or concern that nothing would be done. A smaller number of female board members (25%) said they would be "not at all reluctant" to complain compared to male members (41%). IJB members were more reluctant to make a complaint and nearly a third (33 %) said their board did not have a  culture of collective responsibility. 

The Standards Commission will now share the survey results with the Scottish Government to help inform their induction and ongoing training programme for board members and Chairs of devolved public bodies. The Standards Commission will also highlight the concerns raised about disrespectful behaviour in discussions with the Scottish Government about whether a bullying and harassment provision should now be included in the Model Code of Conduct, to reflect a similar one recently included in the Councillors' Code.